Sunday, July 29, 2007

May 2006 - Hot Docs Review - Exiles in Lotusland

© May 2006 - Exiles in Lotusland By Bryen Dunn, Toronto -

One quarter of Vancouver’s street youth have migrated there from the inner regions of Quebec, where they have run away from abuse, family issues, detention centers, and other hardships of life. Exiles in Loutsland is an intimate portrait of a couple (Milo and Ti-Criss) in search of escape. For now, their only certainty is each other.

In 1999, Director Ilan Saragosti moved to Vancouver from his native Quebec. Walking the streets one day he recalled hearing several of the panhandlers speaking a familiar Quebecois dialect. He soon discovered a whole underground population of youth that fled their homeland in search of something new. Saragosti mentions that this trend first began back in the 70’s and continues today as youth believe it to be a sort of El Dorado, with its favourable weather and accessibility to drugs. It’s a place to find your dreams, or supposedly so.

Saragosti admits, “Having privilege to a stable home environment, I decided to do this documentary more out of curiosity, exploration and understanding than anything else.” He initially approached Milo and Ti-Criss with the idea, and once trust was established they began their journey as a team. He endured a fluid relationship with the couple, sometimes spending up to 8 and 10 hours today in their company. “We’d finish up for the day, and the crew and I would head back to our hotel rooms and they would head off to find a place to crash”, he recalls.While Milo maintains contact with her family members back in Quebec, Ti-Criss has no contact whatsoever, fleeing an abusive home.

The film providing in depth views as they maneuver around surviving as best they can on a day to day basis. They are shown looking for the next meal and searching for a place to bed down for the night. It also takes a startling and somewhat expected turn at the end, and is an indication of the potential downfalls of street life.

Positively though, today Milo is off the street, off drugs, and working ~ with aspirations of becoming an Outreach Worker.While government assistance is available for street youth, many are reluctant to take advantages of the services as it’s the very thing they are sometimes running from. Saragosti admits, “The funding helps, but it also pushes them to the streets.”The film has won the Best Canadian Feature Film at the Whistler Film Festival and Honourable mention in Houston.

Exiles in Lotusland is showing at Hot Docs and will be available at the NFB private viewing stations after the Festival., 2005, 70 min) Director: Ilan Saragosti Photo Credit: Mia D – Ilan Saragosti.

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